CAMBODIA: Democracy in (Radio) Waves

ARACELI PALAFOX WRITES- In September, there was a turn in media in Cambodia when Cambodia’s Center for Independent Media (CCIM) applied for radio and television licenses. If granted, CCIM would operate it’s Voice of Democracy (VOD) program through the Ministry of Information. VOD was established in 2003 under Cambodia’s Center for Human Rights with the belief that, “Every Body Well Informed and Educated, Every Body Developed.”As a non-governmental organization, VOD is crucial during election times because it promotes democratic governance by providing politically neutral news.

Radio continues to be the number one way of reaching most Cambodians. Four out of five Cambodians live in a rural area, meaning that most of Cambodia’s population relies on radio to receive news and information. For the past eleven years, VOD has reached its listeners by providing high-quality radio programming. If granted, this would be a win for democracy and independent media in Cambodia.

This wouldn’t be the first time CCIM has tried to pave the way for independent media. VOD has applied three times in the past: 2003, 2004, and 2007, all of which were unsuccessful. However, CCIM feels that this is their year.

As of right now, CCIM operates under license holders located in the capital of Phnom Penh. The group has called on the government for acknowledgement and approval of the license which would include a national TV station and radio stations in the capital and fifteen other provinces.

While an independent media sector would mark a victory for Cambodians, a long road towards democracy still remains.

It’s no surprise that CCIM has received little to no media coverage or support considering almost all sectors are government-owned. The lack of coverage that CCIM’s has received this past month allows us to examine Cambodia’s media through a critical lens.

This is only the beginning of the many struggles CCIM will face. CCIM has taken media and has used it as an agent as an attempt towards the promotion and development of democratic structures and processes. Democracy demands free and engaged media.

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